Many companies currently face the challenge of scaling and sustaining company culture in a hybrid workplace. To state the obvious, you must adjust your approach. The same approach but in virtual format is not sufficient. Pamela Hinds and Brian Elliott conducted interviews with executives worldwide to understand their perspectives on sustaining and building culture with a remote workforce. They write in their article “WFH Doesn’t Have to Dilute Your Corporate Culture”: “[Building remote culture] isn’t about incremental change—it requires recognizing that culture is evolving despite being remote and that organizations need to invest a substantial amount of time and energy into keeping their cultures on track or steering them in new directions.”
A great example of a company adjusting its approach to fit the hybrid and remote environment is Consensus Cloud Solutions. With 52% of its workforce attached to no office whatsoever, Consensus operates as a hybrid and largely remote company. In this interview, Chief People Officer (CPO) Lynn Johnson breaks down what it takes to scale and sustain culture to 600 hybrid and remote employees.
Consensus Cloud Solutions is a source for the transformation, enhancement, and secure exchange of digital information.
Consensus Sustains Its Culture With an “Iron Fist but a Velvet Glove”
A keystone component of Consensus’s ability to successfully scale and sustain culture across a hybrid and remote workforce is the company’s set of six values:
- striving for excellence,
- demonstrating empathy,
- embracing innovation,
- focusing on solutions,
- communicating openly, and
- being driven by data.
“Our culture is steeped in community, productivity, accountability, and living out these core values on a daily basis,” Johnson shared. She then broke down two important ways that she scales and sustains culture.
A robust, virtual onboarding program: Johnson and her team deliver a four-hour virtual onboarding program. “We have a great presentation in which we share the history of the company, our philosophy, our mission, and our vision and values” Johnson said. “We cover employee programs and how to stay connected in a virtual environment.”
A position focus: Every new employee is given a breakdown of their position focus. This breakdown includes:
- what you’re expected to do,
- how you’re going to be reviewed,
- what accountability looks like, and
- the results that you’re expected to produce.
To balance “soft skills” (or power skills as I prefer to call them) and accountability, Johnson thinks of it this way: “I'm a firm believer in marrying both sides. We marry the hard business results with the soft swishiness. You guide with an iron fist but also with a velvet glove.”
Robust Development Opportunities Set First-Line Leaders and Their Teams Up for Success
Manager effectiveness is integral to scaling and sustaining company culture across a hybrid and remote culture. Frontline managers comprise and directly influence a significant majority of any company.
For a company of just 600 employees, Consensus delivers a highly in-depth offering for first-line managers, even including personalized one-on-one coaching sessions.
- Employee Resource Portal – As a company that uses and heavily relies on tools, their employee resource portal helps employees at every level find the resources that they need. This assistance extends not only to first-line managers but also to first-line employees.
- Individualized Training and One-on-One Coaching – For manager training, Johnson and her team have partnered with an external vendor to deliver different programs. “We provide five one-on-one coaching sessions with an executive coach that are individualized to the manager. For example, if we want somebody to focus on communication or on creating returns on investment (ROIs) for their team, then that person is paired with an executive consultant who has that background and experience.” This offering extends to every level of leader, including the frontline.
- Virtual Management Webinars – Lastly, Johnson and her team offer opt-in manager webinars on key topics, which are available to all levels of managers. “We just held a webinar about providing feedback. We involved everyone, from our CEO to the youngest manager in the organization in terms of tenure,” Johnson said.
Two Book Recommendations From Johnson
Johnson recommended two books:
The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni – “According to Lencioni, when you look at individuals on your team, you want them to be humble, hungry, and smart. So what does it look like for all of us to be humble, hungry, and smart?” Johnson said.
Multipliers by Liz Wiseman – “I’m reading this book with both the executive leadership team and my human resources (HR) team. This book describes how to multiply individuals on a team and to be a manager that multiplies,” Johnson explained.
Johnson’s Advice for CPOs: Be curious, Unpack Trends, and Look at the Why
Asked what advice she would share with her younger self, Johnson replied, “Be curious, unpack trends, and look at the why. Often, people give you a surface answer, but that's not really the root. To get to the root, you have to be curious, ask questions, and really seek to understand.”